Sonic Generator concert at MOCA-GA engages with 5 solos and an ensemble finale

by Mark Gresham | 26 MAY 2016, Atlanta, GA

Sonic Generator performs “ACDC” by Michael Gordon.

Sonic Generator performs “ACDC” by Michael Gordon. (credit: Mark Gresham)

Georgia Tech-based new music ensemble Sonic Generator presented a free concert on Monday evening in the downstairs gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art–Georgia (MOCA-GA). The program consisted of five works for solo musicians then concluded with a work played the whole ensemble.

The show kicked off with flutist Jessica Peek Sherwood performing “It” (2012) by Dutch avant-garde composer Jacob TV (Jacob ter Veldhuis). Like many of his works, Jacob TV built “It” around samples of the human voice, in this case based on a 1928 newsreel of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. The accompanying soundtrack and video consisted primarily of the voices and images of Helen and Ann, fragmented into sentences, words and syllables. In its climactic concluding moments, Sherwood spoke breathlessly between her played notes, Keller’s final word of the film’s dialogue: “I… am… not… dumb… now!”

Violinist Helen Hwaya Kim played the first two of John Harbison’s “Four Songs of Solitude” (1985), his only work for unaccompanied violin. The first was gentle and flowing in demeanor, the second paired a simple folk-like melody with a more athletic second motif. Cellist Brad Ritchie performed Steve Reich’s “Cello Counterpoint” (2003), a challenging work notable for its exceedingly tight, fast-paced rhythmic figures, in its version for live solo cello and a soundtrack of seven pre-recorded cellos.

Pianist Tim Whitehead performed “Shadows” (2015) by Atlanta composer Jason Freeman, involving an interactive computer-based score, with Whitehead reading it from the screen, which changed in response to Whitehead’s playing. Each of its four movements explored the interaction from a different perspective. Clarinetist Ted Gurch followed with “It Goes Without Saying” (2007) by Nico Muhly, which felt astonishingly organic despite the more electronic character of its accompanying soundtrack.

The concert concluded with the sole ensemble piece, “ACDC” (1996) by Michael Gordon, one of the founders of Bang-On-A-Can, in which the vivid interplay of polyrhythms was the predominant feature. Taken all together, the concert was consistently indicative of the ensemble’s penchant for high-quality performances. It made for an engaging evening.

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